For most of us, a visit to the dentist is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. However, for older patients facing increased physical limitations, a dental appointment can become a harrowing ordeal or impossibility. People who have taken excellent care of their teeth and gums find that they can no longer do so.
It would be nice if the dentist could make an old-fashion house call, but because of the amount of equipment and supplies necessary to provide modern dentistry, this is prohibitively expensive. Mobile facilities exist, however getting a disabled patient in and out of one of these vans can be as difficult as in and out of an accessible office.
Older patients residing in retirement-nursing care facilities often have their dental care totally neglected. Most of these facilities ignore these needs and do not provide a dental operatory for in-house use. Dental hygienists are prohibited, unless specially licensed, from cleaning teeth without direct supervision by a dentist in every state but Colorado. It may shock you to learn that this effectively denies dental hygiene to most patients in extended care facilities.
Our oral health is not only important to us nutritionally, but also to our ability to communicate, and to our self-esteem. We eat, talk, laugh, and kiss with our mouths.
If you are concerned about your present and future access to oral health care, or that of a loved one, here are some steps you can take:
Dr. Jack Lester D.D.S. practices dentistry in San Francisco, specializing in geriatric patients and patients with disabilities. His telephone number is (415) 362-4373.